My Update Portrait

The American Force Awakens


Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one and they all stink. - Unknown

Well, here I am back in my own journal. I used to belong to the Talk_Politics Community for political discourse. I had observed and participated in some pretty spirited and sometimes heated discussions where all sides were represented, respected and expressed in no uncertain terms. Unfortunately, the Conservative side of the discussions retreated into their own hollow echo chamber, basically leaving Talk_Politics as a, more or less, hollow echo chamber itself. Eventually, any attempt to inject an American perspective resulted in deep resentment toward America's place on the world stage even from the moderators and I, myself, retreated and left the forum.

Livejournal used to be awash with political communities, but has been reduced to precious few. I tried my hand at the ONTD_Political forum, but they exercised Gestapo-like censorship on their links only allowing their preapproved short list of sources that were basically their other forums and a few far left wing sources. Also, if you weren't sucking Bernie Sanders' dick, they didn't want you.

Now to my point. The internet has been heralded as a medium that increased communication, enabled worldwide commerce and put knowledge at the fingertips of the common man. At the same time, it provided an open forum to have your voice heard along with everyone else's. Political forums on the internet became open bitch boards that enabled the masses to express their pet peeves and self centric agendas. America stopped discussing and started shouting to the point that the nation no longer has a meaning as a society of citizens, but got drowned in the noise of divided competing tribes. Nothing illustrates that more than the political candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, that represent what is most extreme about America.

The voice of reason and the voice of moderation has become lost. Compromise has turned into staunch and unyielding confrontation. The really sad part of this is that this confrontation and rage aren't even seen as a failing any more, but a valuable asset. Seemingly insurmountable problems have become more intractable than ever. This seems to have arisen from the financial meltdown of 2008 where institutional icons no longer provided answers and people had to look within themselves for their own solutions. As a result, cooperative victories within our society now appear to be personal intrusions because they require imposition on our personal lives. Nobody wants to contribute to a general welfare any more. The Constitution is no longer a founding document, but a convenient weapon for the weak minded.

For the first time in my life, I genuinely fear for the country's future. It is not because I am afraid it is going in the wrong direction, but because the country is consciously choosing not to have a direction. We are in pure stimulus/response mode for only immediate gratification and the future be damned.

My Update Portrait

Woman who accused Bill Clinton of assault to campaign against Hillary presidential run

Kathleen Willey

Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation... even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind. - Leonardo da Vinci

Hillary Clinton said in the New Hampshire Debate that the mark of Progressivism is progress. In an effort by the Republican Party to halt this perceived evil is an effort to revive the 20 year obsession with Bill Clinton's dick.

According to an article in Reuters, an associate of Donald Trump is trying to revive the Monica Lewinsky affair by recruiting Kathleen Willey. According to Willey's claims, Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her while she was an unpaid aide to Bill Clinton.

One of the women who has accused former U.S. President Bill Clinton of sexual assault says she has agreed to work for an anti-Clinton political group being formed by a former advisor to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Kathleen Willey, a former White House volunteer who says Bill Clinton groped her in an Oval Office hallway in 1993 when she came to him tearfully seeking a paid job, said she had agreed to become a paid national spokeswoman for a group being created by Roger Stone.

Stone, a Republican strategist, said the group would become active should Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton's wife, win the Democratic nomination in the 2016 race for the White House. Clinton is currently the front runner.

Besides being an incident that America should have digested and moved past within the last 15 years, Willey's allegations were found to be not credible by the independent counsel assigned to the case. According to the article on Kathleen Willey in Wikipedia:

The Final Report of the U.S. Office of the Independent Counsel report noted that "Willey and President Clinton are the only direct witnesses to their meeting, and their accounts differ substantially on the crucial facts of what occurred." It also stated "Willey gave false information to the FBI about her sexual relationship with a former boyfriend, and acknowledged having lied about it when the agents confronted her with contradictory evidence. Following Willey's acknowledgment of the lie, the Independent Counsel agreed not to prosecute her for false statements in this regard."[5] According to Independent Counsel Robert Ray's report, "Willey's [Paula] Jones deposition testimony differed from her grand jury testimony on material aspects of the alleged incident."[6]

Willey has a history of controversial claims including telling the FBI she was pregnant and she had a miscarriage when she did not.[9] On the evening of March 19, 1998, Julie Hiatt Steele, a friend of Willey, released an affidavit, accusing the former White House aide of asking her to lie to corroborate Ms. Willey's account of being sexually groped by President Clinton in the Oval Office.[10] An attempt by Kenneth Starr to prosecute Steele for making false statements and obstructing justice ended in a mistrial and Starr declined to seek a retrial after Steele sought an investigation against the former Independent Counsel for prosecutorial misconduct.[11]

Apparently, this is an effort to discredit the Clinton campaign by declaring this highly dubious claim as rape. The organization that Willey heads up is called the Rape Accountability Project for Education PAC, or RAPE PAC.

My Update Portrait

Here we go again.

Head in the sand

Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice. - George Jackson

Paris has once again been attacked in a senseless and unwarranted terrorist attack, apparently in the same ideological vein as the Charlie Hebdo incident. France has once again proven to be a fertile and easy target to attack with no apparent consequences by terrorist criminals and will continue to do so as long as these extremist actions are tolerated.

I had proposed a plan to fight this growing menace. Although rejected out of hand with much hand wringing and apprehension, it is an alternative to the usual lather, rinse, repeat that has been going on with responses to terrorist assaults. If you are going to comment on this post, please do so with solutions, not timid head-in-the-sand kumbaya style opposition. Yes, the plan is butt ugly but so is the situation. I don't see some daintiness squad as a viable option.

Another day another Western terrorism target drawn into their jihad. The recruitment tools and sympathy continues. ISIL remains faceless while all of industrialized Europe stands to be counted as oppressive producers of ISIL's self-perceived victimology. Now the enlightened world is calling once again to invest blood and treasure in a futile effort to eradicate this spreading infection.

Jihadism doesn't fear it. They welcome it.

My Update Portrait

Corporations versus Countries


If I just produce the transparent ideal accepted by the Western experts, a process of privatization which will be very good but never happen, that means nothing. - Anatoly Chubais

The recent Charlie Hebdo attacks recently brought outrage throughout the world. This outrage was expressed vehemently by the press, who considered this attack a slap in the face to free speech across the globe. As a result, there have been a number of responses by the press, including an image of a crying Muhammad on the cover of Charlie Hebdo.

One of those responses came from Scott Adams, author of the very popular Dilbert comic (a sample is pictured) that shamelessly lampoons corporate culture. On the Dilbert website, he wrote a blog post that I thought was an interesting concept that I would like to see fleshed out. The concept of a robot militia is a little over the top, but the overall theme is worth consideration.

In the post, he proposes a covert, fully privatized international militia to fight terrorism. The budgets for the militia would come from participating countries. Although this has been tried before with disastrous results, the military climate has changed completely since the last time it was tried. The terrorist network is pretty much faceless and ubiquitous. With corporate run and controlled covert militias, the mercenaries would also become faceless and would allow contributing countries to go up against terrorist organizations without liability.

With the global economy™ now borderless, the accountability of funding countries would disappear. The claims of revenge against individual countries would become meaningless. Corporations could even make the most of their exploitive use of desperate cheap labor to provide cannon fodder for these militias.

Considering the marketing capabilities of most corporations and independent organizations, the collateral damage to their image could easily be offset. There are organizations out there that have no problem being equated to tragedy, such as the NRA, Wall Street and tobacco companies, that should be able to jump at the chance for ill gotten profits.

This is an opportunity for the private sector to actually put their money where their mouths are. If they are going to use predatory techniques to separate people’s money from them, this would seem like a golden opportunity for them; and also an opportunity for governments to get to return to the business of serving their populace at home.

My Update Portrait

The Cyber War Has Begun


We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. - Carl Sagan

By now everybody has heard of the cyber attack on Sony Pictures, allegedly from North Korea in retaliation for the Seth Rogen and James Franco farce “The Interview”. The entire corporation was caught up in this including detailed and damaging information on celebrities, intellectual property, privileged corporate information, current employees and former employees. There were 10 terabytes (about 10 trillion bytes) of information that was stolen. The damage is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Information can be restored from backups and insurance is covering at least some of the losses. Sony can still do business, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Despite the news media trying to assess the damage in digital information and dollar losses, there is something much bigger going on here. I am not going to compare it to the Hindenburg, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor or the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center because no physical lives were lost. However, I think the malicious nature of this attack has shaped the composition of cyber war.

Security experts agree that there was nothing Sony could have done to mitigate this hack. The lives of those caught in the attack will forever be changed. We fell into an emotional and psychological paralysis as a result of this. There are innumerable questions that may never be answered, such as how is this information going to be ultimately used. Who is going to be getting this information? One of the most frightening is what is going to keep this from happening again?

I don’t think there is any better illustration of the psychological and emotional paralysis that has happened to us than the total abdication of leadership that occurred during this attack. Theater chains left the release decision to the theater owners, Sony left the release decision to the theater chains, and ultimately the POTUS claimed that the decision to pull the film from release by Sony Pictures was “a mistake”. This is unusual for me to say, but I think the decision by Sony Pictures was the most responsible under the circumstances and the administration from the Pentagon through the President was unprepared to respond to this attack.

Retaliation for this attack is going to be difficult, at best. North Korea has no civil internet structure so a counterattack would be useless. They are so isolated that sanctions would be ineffective. Bolstering South Korea’s military capabilities would be a somewhat mild response. About the only thing I can think of is to either beam “Team America: World Police” to every TV set in North Korea or electronically disable all of North Korea’s military defenses.

All I can imagine is that this is only the first volley in a series.

My Update Portrait

Give me Liberty or Give me Death Panels


People say I make strange choices, but they're not strange for me. My sickness is that I'm fascinated by human behavior, by what's underneath the surface, by the worlds inside people. - Johnny Depp

I made a comment about the community in a prior post. The responses to it were certainly well placed, appropriate and accurate. One thing that attracted me to this forum, besides Livejournal being structured better for discussion than any other site I’ve seen, is because of the global diversity of the participants. It’s true. We don’t seem to be getting posts about America because those that used to post have left for some reason or other. I don’t think it is because of Facebook, Google+ or any other social media because those sites tend to shun political discussion. Maybe it’s because American politics has become an international embarrassment. The President is getting sued over a law that the Republicans have tried to repeal over 40 time and have shut the government down over. It’s not as embarrassing as South Korea, although I think a good fist fight in the House or Senate could raise CSPAN’s ratings.

On to the post at hand. I have always considered myself to be a left leaning centrist and supporter of Obamacare. Nancy Pelosi once said that the Patient Protection and (A)ffordable (C)are (A)ct has to pass in order to see what’s in it. I now finally understand, after 4 years, what she meant. The structure eluded me at first, but I am finally starting to see what it’s all about.

Americans, for the first time, are actually thinking about their healthcare. Provided everyone gets insured, there is no longer a deathly fear of illness or injury because of the catastrophic financial impact upon the afflicted family. Also, with the advent of high deductibles, healthcare plans are no longer being treated trivially. In order for the healthcare plan to work, the afflicted has to participate and become invested in the cost of the healthcare. I believe this is contributing, more than anything, to the reduction in the increase of healthcare costs in this country.

I’m hoping that the ACA will become ingrained as a “too big to fail” part of our government structure much like Medicare or Social Security before the next President comes into office. If necessary, modifications and improvements can be made without tearing apart the one healthcare policy this country has seen since its inception. Considering Republicans have offered no viable alternative, I don’t see any other way forward.

My Update Portrait

Stem Silliness

Stem Cells

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. - Albert Einstein

In keeping with the Monthly Topic, an article I came across a couple months ago caught my eye. We’re all probably familiar with the stem cell controversy for religious and philosophical reasons regarding embryonic stem cells. This controversy has resulted in an executive order ban by George W. Bush on creating new stem cells from human embryos. Fortunately, this ban was reversed by Barack Obama at the beginning of his administration. Contrary to the claims of many abortion opponents, no stem cells are created from induced abortions. They come from embryos that have been rejected in failed fertility attempts and cell lines that already exist.

Now, Harvard University researchers have discovered that they can effectively cure diabetes in rats with embryonic stem cells. The Harvard researchers claim:

“This dramatic result is particularly promising for victims of type I diabetes, a disorder in which the body’s immune system kills off all of its beta cells, but it also potentially offers relief to those suffering with type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes. Many laboratory discoveries take years or decades to yield therapies. The Harvard scientists are more optimistic. With partners at the University of Chicago, they are planning tests on primates, and they hope to begin human transplant trials within three years.”

Considering the pervasiveness and massive healthcare expense of diabetes in this country, I would say that this discovery is epic, to say the least. Like cancer, most people would say that they are familiar with someone in their family or social circle that has been touched by this disease, if not experiencing it themselves.

If there is no other reason than this to continue embryonic stem cell research, I believe this discovery should permanently remove the stigma associated with it. I support continuing adult stem cell research in order to make stem cell therapy more available to everyone, but I do not believe there is a good case to have it replace embryonic stem cell research.

My Update Portrait

The Unforgotten


Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized. - Albert Einstein

The European Court of Justice brought into existence Europe's "right to be forgotten" ruling. In a nutshell, Europe wanted to protect citizens from the fact that the Internet never forgets.

The particular case heard by the court involved a Spanish man who was in the press for serious debt problems, but who later climbed out of debt. The court ordered Google, Bing and other search engines to remove his name as a search query that returned the outdated information about his finances. The court ruled that the public should have a right to petition search engines to remove search results for resolved indiscretions that are not a matter of public record.

This has thrown the journalism industry into a panic. They are no longer guaranteed access to references and searches for their news stories with the greatest of ease. As a result, as is the case with the majority of people that are directly affected by a political direction, they are demanding immediate action from somebody else to resolve this issue for them.

The Washington Post Editorial Board thinks it should be our government at all levels that should preserve access to the information they’d like to have to do their jobs with the greatest of ease. Mike Elgan, who is a frequent contributor to Computerworld, a trade magazine for the computer tech industry, believes Google itself should provide a peer-to-peer TOR style shadow network that bypasses government oversight and regulation to provide easy access to the Internet’s “dark internet” underbelly so as to provide convenient snooping on everybody but Mike Elgan.

There is not going to be any fantasy simple or conveniently balanced solution between privacy and security on the internet, no matter how much everybody demands it. No one wants to be responsible for determining where the line should be drawn. And even if someone would, the decision isn’t going to be accepted or tolerated by a substantial number of people.

My Update Portrait

Obamacare: a Personal Story


Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. - John F. Kennedy

I got health insurance for the first time in 8 years as of January 1 of this year. I, like a lot of older Americans, have a pre-existing condition with a diabetes type 2 diagnosis and couldn’t afford health insurance in a high risk pool at my age. I was unemployed for two and a half years and insurance through my current employer would have eaten up half of my monthly paycheck.

Between my social security benefits and my current paycheck, I am now insured. I signed up though the federal health care exchange for an HMO. Waiting for 2 weeks before the December 23rd deadline helped, and the process was pretty painless. Although the signup failures get highlighted, the successes seem to get lost in the process. I got a policy without any subsidies, so I am on a very typical private insurance plan and pay $560 a month.

The problems with signing up for insurance have been well documented and publicized. I knew what to expect when and was told when it would be corrected. Not so, once I received coverage from a very prominent private insurer. That’s when the confusion and my uneasiness started.

Getting answers from my insurance company is nothing short of a nightmare. Any attempt to call them results in a wait of at least an hour, if I don’t get disconnected. I have an online account with them with a facility to get my questions answered via a contact Email form. I have put in queries for things like payment methods and clarification of primary care physician options. These queries have been stuck in limbo for 2 weeks. One query got a response and said only that it would be referred to the proper department.

After I paid for my coverage (It took a week for the payment to be posted), it took another 2 weeks to receive my insurance coverage card. I am still unable to get answers to my insurance questions. Apparently, there aren’t any competent “navigators” in the private insurance sector. This is their business handling a very costly product. They had years to anticipate a heavy load in their only area of expertise.

For all the public outrage about government shortcomings, I am massively unimpressed with the operation of the private industry sector regarding health care. It appears that this extremely well-known insurance company is more interested in insulating themselves against their subscribers than they are about providing service to their customers.

My Update Portrait

The Black Hole of Legislation Calls the Kettle Black

Black Hole

Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban. And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes. - Republican Congressman Peter Sessions

We all know what a black hole is. It’s a swirling mass in the center of the galaxy that consumes hot gases and enlightenment and produces nothing. That would also describe our American Congress, the epitome of dysfunction within our country.

The remaining members of al Qaeda must be dancing in their caves right now. We as Americans have achieved things that they could only dream of. Things like a worldwide financial meltdown, destructive disclosures of our state secrets regarding defense, some unrepentant plagiarist and blowhard named Rand Paul staging a pointless and futile 10 hour rant about our drone program and most recently a near, partial, feel-good, not really, but okay shutdown of our government and virtual execution of our foot regarding our financial good faith with the debt ceiling.

Along comes October 1st and the Affordable Care Act, code named Obamacare. Despite Republican efforts to repeal, shut down, defund, constitutionally reject and hold the government hostage over it; they are falling all over themselves to demand that the government respond to its nascent popularity by commanding that it work flawlessly by decree.

I have been a part of enough large IT projects, including a successful one for the US military, to know that setting a do or die date for a project of this magnitude is a crap shoot at best. Besides, the system wasn’t designed to have to support federal exchanges for 27 states.

Per Computerworld:

The Standish Group, which has a database of some 50,000 development projects, looked at the outcomes of multimillion dollar development projects and ran the numbers for Computerworld.

Of 3,555 projects from 2003 to 2012 that had labor costs of at least $10 million, only 6.4% were successful. The Standish data showed that 52% of the large projects were "challenged," meaning they were over budget, behind schedule or didn't meet user expectations. The remaining 41.4% were failures -- they were either abandoned or started anew from scratch.

Now these same legislators that failed to navigate their own missions enough to keep our government operating are conducting investigations of those who were unable to automate this highly specialized and unprecedented project including that of Secretary of Health’s Kathleen Sebelius. If these Congressmen want to understand the profile of failure, they should assemble a committee and just put a big mirror in the center of the room, because the team has something Congress doesn't have. A spirit of cooperation to achieve a goal.